If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.
This week we read through to the end of Chapter 2.
Holy Intense Book Prologue, Bat Man! There was so much information packed into this first section of reading that I hardly know where to start with the questions.
1. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that we have now met all of the Forsaken in the flesh. What are your impressions of the last three to be revealed: Demandred, Mesaana and Semirhage? Any guesses which of the Forsaken have been reborn as Osan’gar and Aran’gar?
Demandred seems to be driven by his envy of Lews Therin, who was ever so slightly better at everything than he was, but this is a common motivation for many of the male Forsaken. Mesaana seems to be very angry and resentful, possibly because she was not as powerful or successful as some of the other Forsaken. Semirhage strikes me as possibly the most classically evil of the Forsaken, with her great skill in Healing perverted to inflict pain. She has amazing patience, which is rather unusual for them, but we know that she hates Lanfear, so perhaps she is not always as calm as she appears.
It is implied that both the women are working in very useful and important positions, so I wonder if one of them is active in the White Tower. We know that Moghedien has spoken about ways to change ones appearance and even hide ones ability to channel, so one could easily be hiding as a mid-level Aes Sedai. The other major powers that do not seem to be associated with the Forsaken already are the Seanchan and also the societies beyond the Aiel Waste. We have had no indication that those beyond the Waste will be a factor in the Last Battle, so I wonder if the Seanchan are also being manipulated.
This was a very interesting scene because Lanfear is the only female Forsaken who is possibly dead, so it would seem that she is Aran’gar. However, we do not know that she is actually dead, and if she is then it has only happened recently, whereas Osan’gar seems to have been dead for quite some time. We have a few male Forsaken as candidates: Aginor and Balthamel were offed in Book 1 and Ishmael got caught on the pointy end of Callandor in Book 3. We know that Be’lal and Rahvin were both killed by balefire and so cannot be brought back. I would discount Asmodean because we do not know how he died, so he could also have been wiped from the Pattern, and it was very recently. If we assume that Lanfear and Moiraine are not actually dead, then Aginor and Balthamel seem to be the obvious candidates because they both died at about the same time and it makes sense for them to both be resurrected together. However, this means that one of them has been given the body of a woman . . .
2. We also get our first look at Shayol Ghul and enter the presence of the Dark One himself. Was this what you expected and how horrific did you find the experience related by Demandred? Also, Shaidar Haran: is he the scariest thing that we have come across yet or not?
I thought that it was an interesting play upon the typical Christian depiction of Hell, with all the lava and flames. However, the intense cold was a nice touch because it is so unexpected of a volcanic area and yet it evokes the feeling of death. Ironically, following his journey through this terrible place made Demandred seem much more human than introducing him as yet another powerful channeler. It highlighted his doubts and frailties, reminding us that the Forsaken are just humans with some interesting powers and not superhuman or godlike.
Shaidar Haran seems to be the embodiment of evil. The fact that the ceiling ‘fangs’ give him a huge amount of head room was particularly scary: does this mean that the Dark One respects, or even fears him? We see that he scares the snot out of Demandred and is also a new player for the Shadow because he was not around during the Age of Legends. I get the impression that he is the Dark One’s right hand man, so I would agree with Demandred’s determination to be pleasant to him.
3. What do you think of the girls’ solution for containing Moghedien? Do you think they can hope to keep this secret, plus all the others they have?
I thought that this was rather neat and tidy, giving them the opportunity to continue extracting information and training whilst keeping her safely trapped. She has no hope of escape, unless she is helped, and so has no real choice but to do what they ask of her. It seems a suitable punishment for a person who is so happy to use Compulsion on other people, but also plays to her strengths of hiding in plain sight and working from the shadows. The added benefit of allowing Nynaeve to channel whenever she wants is just a bonus.
I was impressed by Elayne’s ability to create an a’dam that did not require the linking chain. I assume that originally the chain was more symbolic than of practical use, but this development makes their subterfuge so much more stealthy. I wonder if anyone will eventually wonder how they continue to ‘discover’ so many new and interesting techniques, but the Aes Sedai are hardly likely to suspect that they have a tame Forsaken, so this secret is probably fairly safe. This is also true for Birgitte’s identity. Nobody will believe that she is THAT Birgitte, just a woman who wants to be. However, I do think that they have so much going on that something will slip out at some point, possibly Nynaeve’s attempts to Heal Stilling.
4. Yay! Faile and Perrin are back in the narrative, and Loial is mentioned if not actually shown (grump). Were you surprised by the changes that we see in the Two Rivers? How likely do you think it is that Perrin will be able to leave Faile behind when he travels off to meet up with Rand?
We always knew that the folk of the Two Rivers were practical and pragmatic, so I was not terribly surprised to find that they were busy rebuilding and improving the villages. However, I was a little surprised to find them building a manor house for Perrin, although I am quite sure that it was mostly Faile’s idea. I can only imagine how much Perrin hates the building and what it symbolizes, but he is ta’veren, so he should really accept that he is destined for greatness.
I suspect that Faile would travel with him, even if she had to walk behind his horse barefoot. However, we have seen that she is a great compliment to Perrin’s discomfort with his newfound position, so he will probably do far better with her around than he would otherwise. Also, she is very entertaining, so I hope she sticks around for quite a bit longer.
I also hope that we get to see more of Loial in this book as I feel that he has been somewhat neglected since his defense of the children in the Stone of Tear.
5. It seems that the members of House Trakand, with the possible exception of Elayne, are making some pretty dreadful choices at the moment. How long do you think Gawyn will stay with the White Tower Aes Sedai before he decides to call it quits and go to look for Egwene? Morgase seems to have lost most of her former composure: could she use a ‘good seeing to’ from young Tallanvor and his shapely calves????
I suspect that Gawyn’s support for the White Tower will be a constant source of doubt for him. I have no doubt that Elaida will begin to do things that he sees as questionable and so his loyalty will be stretched thinner and thinner until it finally snaps and he switches sides entirely. I am not sure if he will be able to take all of the Younglings with him, but I doubt that this will influence his decision, especially if Elaida does anything to threaten Egwene. However, it seems that Galina has plans to dispose of the Younglings as soon as possible, so this decision might be made for him.
I have been quite frustrated with Morgase because she seems to have forgotten how to control herself. I wonder if this is some form of residual influence from Rahvin’s Compulsion, but it is still irritating. She seems to be too impatient and anxious to handle the meetings with King Ailron and Pedron Niall in a way that gives her an advantage, and this is not how she used to behave. I imagine that she might be a lot more mellow if she finally admits that she is thinking about Tallanvor, and his sexy calves, and gives in to her impulses. Once she gets that out of the way, she might be able to think a little more rationally – in fact, I am surprised that Lini has not already suggested this method of relaxation!
6. The Shaido have allied themselves with the White Tower. Do you foresee a problem with the cultural differences between these two ‘allies’ or will they work together smoothly? Do you think, as I do, that both these groups are underestimating Rand and his abilities?
I enjoyed the little notes of how the two sides viewed the meeting and their different interpretations of the Aes Sedai etiquette. These two groups of women are never going to work together successfully because they both feel superior to the other and there is no trust between the two groups. Of course, I am biased against Sevanna and her bronzed cleavage, so I hope for some Aes Sedai on Shaido action at some point.
We know that thirteen Aes Sedai can hold a male channeler cut off from the One Power, so there is some validation for their confidence that they can overpower him. However, this will not be an easy maneuver and will rely on complete secrecy and trust amongst the sisters involved. Somehow, I think that they will manage to get him bound, but their big mistake will be to believe that he is a lone power. They are so fixated on Rand himself that they are discounting all the people he has supporting him. If they do manage to capture him, we know that the Shaido will take advantage of the situation to attack, but I would expect all the loyal Aiel to rush to his rescue as well, plus we also have Mat and his men and Perrin is heading that way as well. Then there are the rebel Aes Sedai, Davrim Bashere and goodness knows who else to throw behind the Dragon.
7. Poor Rand, surrounded by people that he does not really trust, apart from the Maidens. Last week I was totally convinced of Davrim Bashere’s honesty, do you think that his behavior this week proves me right or wrong? Then there is the False Dragon, Mazrim Tain: should Rand trust him or not?
His behavior this week has me a little worried about Bashere, but I will still hold to my assumption that he is loyal. He is very different in his approach to Rand when compared to the other nobility that we have met, but then he is rather similar to Agelmar Jagad so perhaps this is just a cultural difference. We know that he is the uncle to a hereditary monarch, so that would also alter his attitude to royalty. However, his primary role is as a general, rather than a courtier, so that will also influence how he views Rand.
Part of me wants to trust Mazrim Tain so that he can become a friend and mentor for Rand, someone to help him learn how to use his powers and recruit other male channelers. However, this is a man who thought that HE was the Dragon Reborn for a long time, and who has now learnt that he is not. This would suggest that he will have a certain amount of resentment towards Rand, much as the male Forsaken did for Lews Therin. Until he does something that convinces me that he is totally loyal, I will always have a slight doubt about him.